Sunday, October 07, 2007

Arty Reflections

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr.'s sons have edited their father's journals, making his thoughts available for us to peruse at our leisure. Some of Schlesinger's musings have been shared by more than a few newspapers and blogs this week, with great quotes about some of the presidents & others Schlesinger knew. I've not always been Schlesinger's biggest fan, having found more than a couple of his books more disappointing than enlightening (Cycles of American History being IMHO a sad exercise). But there's no denying that through his journals, we can see that Schlesinger is one great big delicious societal gossip! (A skill I feared we lost with Capote.)

Some of the best bits come from Henry Kissinger, although Schlesinger wisely wonders, "I like Henry very much and respect him, though I cannot rid myself of the fear that he says one sort of thing to me and another sort of thing to, say, Bill Buckley."

Henry Kissinger on Dan Quayle : "he couldn't understand why Quayle had such a bad press; he found him well-informed and intelligent." [For those readers who blissfully missed the Quayle days, Danny boy's struggle with the English language makes George W. look like an expert.] - Schlesinger's rationalization of Henry's bizarre thought was that he must have expected Danny boy to be president one day. And why not, George W. proves that even an idiot can be elected if he plays his cards right. Henry had a bit of venum for George's dad, calling GHW Bush "a very petty man."

Reagan sent ex-Prezs Nixon, Ford & Carter to Anwar Sadat's funeral. Another fun bit came from Kissinger "As soon as we got into the plane, Nixon was his old self again, trying to manipulate everybody and everything, dropping poisonous remarks, doing his best to set people against each other. Later, when we were in a car by ourselves, Ford said to me, 'Sometimes I wish I had never pardoned that son of a bitch.' "

Another Kissinger bit on Nixon, “He really can’t remember whether he has read something in a newspaper or in an intelligence report.”

JFK on brother Bobby's appointment to Attorney General "I made a mistake in putting Bobby in the Justice Department," (instead of running the CIA).

And although I think Henry Kissinger is one of the lowest pieces of scum on the earth, I found his evaluation to Schlesinger's of another minion of the dark forces to be enjoyable. At a 1977 lunch, Henry said he believed "that Donald Rumsfeld was the rottenest person he had known in government."

And in no big surprise, Reagan is described as a president who "never ingests anything you tell him," by his secy. of State, George Scultz. Kissinger's take on Reagan? "He is the only president with whom I would rather have someone else in the room when I see him. If you talk to him alone, you can be sure that nothing will ever happen.”

In the end, I think the piece I've read that I've enjoyed the most is the revelation that Schlesinger wrote Cycles of American History "for the money."


Blogger buckarooskidoo said...

Arty sure got around, didn't he? Everyone ought to go look at maureen dowd's review in the Times today--she puts her own trademark snarky spin on the schlesinger life and times.

12:57 PM  

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